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MEEKER I He may have grown up in the suburbs, but a small town suits Shane Tong just fine.
Tong, who recently joined the medical staff of Meeker Family Health Center, is happy in his new, smaller surroundings.
“That was one reason I wanted to get out of Denver,” said Tong, who joined the medical staff here July 20. “I just felt like some of the relational aspect was lacking. In a smaller community, you can build more of a relationship, not only with patients, but with the community as a whole.”
Tong grew up in the Denver-area suburb of Thornton, where his parents still live. The first time Tong visited Meeker was when he came for a job interview in early January. He liked it immediately.
“We came out and we loved it right away,” Tong said of his and his wife, Jennifer’s, initial reaction. “It made our decision pretty easy. Everyone was very kind and nice to us.”
Ken Huey, interim CEO of Pioneers Medical Center and Meeker Family Health Center, said Tong was a good fit for the medical staff here.
“We are excited to have Dr. Tong on board,” Huey said. “His skills as an osteopathic doctor will bring a new dimension back to Meeker Family Health Clinic.”
Meeker Family Health hasn’t had an osteopathic doctor on staff since Dr. Victor Mihal left in December 2008.
Dr. Albert Krueger, chief of staff for PMC, said Tong will be a good addition.
“The medical staff of Pioneers Medical Center is absolutely excited and happy to welcome to Dr. Tong to Meeker,” Krueger said. “He is the right fit for our medical center and the community. He wants to live and work in a small town and felt that this is the right place for him. His professors at Rose Medical Center recommended him highly and we are privileged to have him. We are very anxious to have his wife and two young children join him within a few weeks. We wish them well as they settle down in our community.”
While Tong had never been to Meeker before his job interview, he was familiar with parts of northwest Colorado.
“I have fished in Rifle and gone mountain biking in Fruita,” he said. “I like to fish and golf and ride mountain bikes.”
Tong’s parents, while extremely proud of their son being a doctor, were not thrilled about him taking the job in Meeker, for one reason only. They were sorry to see their grandkids move farther away, he said. The Tongs have two young children — Sarah, who is 18 months, and Samuel, who is 1 month.
Tong’s wife, Jennifer, also worked in the medical field, but she’s “retired,” for now anyway.
“She had been working in a heart cath lab in Denver,” Tong said. “But now she’s going to be busy raising our two kids.”
Tong received his medical degree from Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. Before coming to Meeker, he had completed his three-year medical residency through the University of Colorado at Rose Medical Center in Denver.
Asked if residency was anything like how it is portrayed in TV series, Tong said, “It’s like that in that you put in lots of hours in the hospital, but there’s not as much drama.”
Before going into the medical field, Tong wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father was a carpenter and his mom is a secretary, so he didn’t come from a medical background at all.
“I served in the military for six years, in the Navy,” he said. “I did that right out of high school. I did it because I didn’t know what the heck I wanted to do.
“Initially, I was thinking physical therapy, that I would do that, but after the Navy I changed my mind, because I wanted to do the overall care,” he said. “So I decided to go into primary care.”
Tong’s arrival coincides with the launching of a new program at PMC called Trails to Health.
“It’s comprehensive program that will transform the old-fashioned physical,” said Margie Joy, development manager for PMC. “This program will streamline your annual check-up into a plan customized for your health needs. Together, you and your doctor/medical practitioner will design a healthcare partnership that set goals and tracks your progress. It is offered at the time of your annual physical and includes screening tests, exam and consultation bundle into one affordable package.
“Trails to Health is about a patient’s overall health and PMC is partnering with other community agencies, such as the Meeker Rec Center, to offer the fitness component of a health lifestyle,” Joy said. “This is just the beginning. The program is designed to grow and develop additional components.”
Tong’s personal philosophy about health care matches up with the new direction PMC is headed.
“Some of my goals are I want to try to make the community healthier and develop the preventative-care aspect of the clinic,” he said.
It didn’t take long for Tong to go through his hospital initiation. The first major case he dealt with occurred during his first night on call.
“A man was brought in with a heart attack and we treated him and shipped him off to a bigger hospital,” Tong said. “He’s doing good.”
Tong’s arrival gives PMC and Meeker Family Health three doctors on staff. He joins Drs. Krueger and Kellie Turner.
“Initially, I’ll be seeing more folks in the ER and acute visits and as new people come to town that will help me build up the practice,” Tong said.
In the meantime, he will keep busy and wait for his family to join him — they will move here the middle of this month.
But already Meeker’s newest doctor feels right at home.
“I will feel more at home once my family gets here, but I feel like I made the right choice,” Tong said, “Things are going real well. So far I really enjoy the area and the job. I’m happy with the way things are going.”